‘The Sandman Universe #1’ (review) at Forces of Geek

‘The Sandman Universe #1’ (review) at Forces of Geek

This week marks the first return of Gaiman to Sandman since 2013’s Sandman Overture prequel released 17 years after The Sandman #75 and some notable spinoffs. The anthology first issue for The Sandman Universe arrived this week to solve the mystery of the missing Dream of the Endless.


Fresh Romance is in the air, courtesy of Janelle Asselin. Bendis opens up three old wounds on each hand with Andrea Sorrentino on art in Old Man Logan (Secret Wars) #1 and don’t forget about The Endless Dreaming with Sandman: Overture #5 in this week’s edition of Triple Shot!

WRITER: Sarah Kuhn, Kate Leth, Sarah Vaughn
ART:   Arielle Jovellanos, Sarah Winifred Searle, Sally Jane Thompson 

Publication Date: May 27, 2015
Price: $4.99
Publisher: Rosy Press/Janelle Asselin
UPC: 70985301875900111
Buy it HERE: / Comixology

As I’m learning in my current comic book class with professor Michael Uslan, Romance Comics as genre came to prominence after the end of World War II.

Everyone hung up their collective capes, and even Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon filled the newsstands with tales of heartbreak, secret crushes and handkerchief hand wringing.

These days, superheroes dominate the scene and the big screen, but former DC Comics editor Jannelle Asselin is resurrecting the genre over at Rosy Press and also utilizing her vast established audience for Kickstarter funding for this special project.

[Read an amazing FOG! interview with Jannelle over here with Stefan Blitz, conducted after the project was funded!]

This inaugural issue of Fresh Romance is an anthology book highlighting 3 separate stories from some of the best talent around. Kate Leth (Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors, Edward Scissorhands) starts off with a classic high school tale of locker talk and Mean Girls swagger. I’m most looking forward to the next installment for the twist introduced at the end of these pages.

Upcoming talent Sarah Vaughn (Alex + Ada) goes back to the post-Revolutionary War days for an impending tale of arranged marriage from ye olde tymes. I wasn’t expecting to go back to the age of AMC’s Turn but it was a nice place to visit and Sarah Winifred Searle’s art is divine. 

‘The Ruby Equation’, the final tale by Sarah Kuhn and Sally Jane Thompson was perhaps my favorite. Without spoiling, this was the most comic-booky of the tales. Modern day cupid meets coffee shop barista. Very cute story with more to come.

Congrats on getting the ball rolling—this was a fun book, and I may have been quoted as saying, “I hate stupid love stories because they are stupid”.

Yet again, I was wrong.


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The Simpsons’s Last Action Movie Hero Rainier Wolfcastle fulfills his promise to be back — in McBain (One-Shot) #1 from Bongo Comics this week! … Stumptown is code name for the west coast Portland and the title of one of our favorite Rockford Files inspired murder mystery books! Greg Rucka and artist Justin Greenwood put our leading lady Dex in harm’s way to get to the bottom of a soccer murder in Stumptown V.3 #4! … Time is steadily running out in Sandman: Overture #4 of 6 from Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III. Savor these last morsels of the Dreaming. … Picks this week from!


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DigBoston and LeaguePodcast Comic Book Picks of the Week for March 26, 2014


Yo Joe! Followers of the League picks know we have a special place in our heart for G.I. Joe! Celebrate sensei Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero issue #200 by heading to Hub Comics in Somerville for your free copy of the $5.99 book! 200 copies available! … Silver Surfer #1 from Dan Slott (Spider-Man) and Mike Allred (FF, Madman) apes Doctor Who by grabbing a companion for his long space journey with the Power Cosmic! … Gaiman’s Sandman is back with J.H. Williams III on art, issue #2 of Sandman: Overture is out today. Picks this week from Robin Hood: Outlaw of the 21st Century on Kindle!

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Heavy hitters on comic stands this week, and I even forgot a copy of Saga on the shelf!

Neil Gaiman teams up with J.H. Williams III to return to Sandman after nearly 17 years, Andy Kubert tells the first New 52 Elseworld tale in Damian: Son of Batman #1 (spoiler, he doesn’t die!), Dean Hapiel and Mark Waid revive Red Circle’s The Fox. At ComiXology Submit, fend for Gold.

WRITER: Neil Gaiman
ART: J.H. Williams III
Publication Date: October 30, 2013
Price: $4.99
Publisher: DC Comics / Vertigo
UPC: 76194131030500111
Buy it HERE

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Sandman comics, Neil Gaiman announced his return to the character with Batwoman/Promethea artist J.H. Williams III. Any artist could draw the story, but William’s breakthrough page layouts, fascination with symbolism, painterly expressions and abstractions are perfect for the land of The Dreaming.

Cleverly, as a nod to his absence, Gaiman returns Morpheus to the book (first as a plant!) by noting that he has been gone for some time.

He returns to London to confront one of his creations, Corinthian who has broken Sandman’s rules of interacting with the waking world.

After dealing with Corinthian, Dream is called to another realm, and Williams carries him there on an 8 page fold out spiral dreamscape that is a spectacular publishing gimmick, but one that showcases the beautiful artwork and range of our artist.

Pacing and delivery of this world doesn’t of course lie on either the artist or writer exclusively. Gaiman’s return is yet another chapter to a masterwork, long thought closed. This book is not a coda, rather it is like tapping into The Dreaming for a familiar recurring dream in between wake and sleep, perhaps a nap taken on the same day you slept in really late.

This book is beautiful, amazing, accessible to new readers (a dream gateway!) and also full of familiar characters. Writing a review of a new classic is difficult, so please just take this one merely as a strong recommendation, especially for fans of J.H. William’s signature style.




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DigBoston and LeaguePodcast Comic Book Picks of the Week for October 30, 2013


Goths, punks, comics fans and fans of sleeping rejoice as Neil Gaiman revisits Sandman after 17 years, with surreal artist J.H. Williams III (Batwoman) in Sandman Overture #1. Revisit our interview with J.H. breaking the news here! … Andy Kubert imagines a future world where Damian Wayne was never killed in Damian Son Of Batman #1. … Ooo. What’s that? A mathematical Adventure Time Spooktacular #1 with Finn and Jake and Ice King and Marceline and Tree Trunks and a mustache! …Picks this week from

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Batwoman #14 - J.H. Williams IIILast week, in Part One, we revealed the cryptic mystic secrets of a metal band called The Sword and their collaboration with artist J.H. Williams III (Batwoman, Promethea, Chase) to create the artwork for Apocryphon. This week, we continue our talk with J.H. on such varied topics as Batwoman, The Sandman and about the process of writing comics for other artists to draw.

DIGBOSTON: Let’s get into this and talk about Batwoman! Issue #14 is out, with #15 hitting right before Christmas. We’re in the middle of the arc with Wonder Woman. Your run on this book in the New 52 is existing comfortably in the spot where the Morrison comics are, where they are not really affected by the change in the New 52. You’ve taken over writing from your partnership with Greg Rucka. Now you are working with W. Haden Blackman and Amy Reeder. How much can you tell us about being able to stay off in your own little world? J.H. WILLIAMS III:  I don’t know how it happened actually. In my conversations with DC, they’ve always been supportive of what I want to do, and they instinctively knew the book had to be not isolated but needed to be doing it’s own thing for a while. The stuff I did with Greg was significant, and at the same time there was still so much more to explore. Those stories were still relatively new when the New 52 shift occurred. We had already been working on Batwoman: The Series before the New 52 happened. Instead of trying to reconfigure everything, they just let us run with it.

Batwoman was so new, that to reboot the character would be nonsense.

The stuff that Greg and I did, as far as her origin, her sister the psychotic Alice, the fallout with her father…It would have been insane to throw that all away. It had to remain as canon. It seemed like a very natural thing for them to accept it. Very cool. How are you enjoying being on the writing side and giving some issues over to other artists? It’s really an interesting process, actually. In enjoy it a lot, seeing how other people interpret the scripts. What I find the most interesting on a creative process level is that when I’m writing for myself, I’m writing the same as if I write for someone else in sense of detail.

Writing for myself, it’s not as though I cut corners on my scripts. “OK, I’m in writer’s mode, I’m wearing my writer’s hat, so I’m going to write”.

Almost like, if something were to happen in the middle of writing and drawing, you’d be able to hand off the script to someone else. (Laughs) Yeah, and it’s just good practice anyway, if I’m going to pursue being a writer, I need to know what the hell I’m doing and write things fully fleshed out. The fun part for me is seeing what someone when Trevor McCarthy comes in with his interpretations of what we’re writing and run with it as well. I’m really happy to be working with him, he is an open minded artist willing to try different things and puts a lot of thought into what he is doing. It is super exciting to be writing for other people, it is not my first experience doing that, a long time ago, I had co-written a book called Chase for DC. It was short-lived, but then we did a lot of short stories based on the concept for DC Secret Files where other artists got to draw those. I also co-wrote a five part Batman story called Snow that another artist drew. I found the whole thing interesting, how another artist would interpret how I see things.

When I write, I’m very descriptive and try to convey visuals with words. Seeing how someone else would interpret how I know I would interpret the script is very fascinating.

-Batwoman Issue #1 - Page 4 - J.H. Williams III

 You’ve introduced a new vocabulary into page layout, and your panel shapes. I think you’ve got some imitators out there now as well. There may not be much for you to say about your process but I wanted to compliment you on our page layouts because they are really amazing, and sort of changed the game a little bit.

  Thank you, I appreciate that you feel that way. When people talk about my work in that regard, I feel like I’m cheating. In all honesty, some of the things I’m doing aren’t all that new! People like Jim Steranko and Jim Starlin to name a couple were doing this in the 60s and 70s, to name a couple who pushed the boundaries of what a page can do. I feel like all I’m really doing is trying to expand on that. I gravitated to that stuff when I saw it.

It seeped into my head and I can’t help but think in those terms now.

You could be introducing that to a whole new generation of artists that never have seen the 70s Steranko. Exactly, and to me on a personal creative level, I can’t settle on doing things the traditional expected way. Certainly there is a place for that and there are times where I do that myself, even in Batwoman when we go highly traditional. But when I’m doing it, it now has a different meaning because of the way it is being used in relation to the more wilder stuff.

If I had to draw just the way that people superficially expect comics to look, I probably would be pretty bored. That sounds like a terrible thing to say in some ways because I love comics and I read lots of comics that are very traditional. For myself, I’m compelled to just push it.

After a year of the New 52, we get a “0” Origin issue of Batwoman. The 0 Issue reveal was spectacular. With the training, it was everything you want out of a new Batman origin, except for here it is, Batwoman.

Thanks, that was a tricky issue for us to write because we knew what was going to remain canon and not canon from Greg and I’s run, that with my partner Haden, it would be a disservice to deviate from that at all. When the whole Zero issue thing came up and DC wanted an origin story it was a challenge because we felt all that ground had been covered already, and relatively recently from one of the best writers there is! It was vey tough for us to figure out how to retell that story but bring something new to it at the same time without deviating from what was there. We had to treat this as more of an expansion. What solidified the issue and what makes it stand out in comparison to what came before with Greg’s story, was for the first time, we are getting to see these events from Kate Kane’s inner point of view. We get to see her looking at that stuff in hindsight.

This brought out new emotional revelations for the character that aren’t necessarily evident from the stuff Greg and I got to work on together. I thought in that regard it was really successful.

It was great and it was Year One in 22 pages. Very cool. We all heard at San Diego Comic Con this year about the 2013 Sandman Comic with Neil Gaiman. Are you excited about the fan feedback that you’ve heard so far?

Oh yeah, people are so excited for it. I had art collectors pinging me about being on a list to get pages, before anything had even been drawn yet. httpvh:// A funny thing about announcing projects, is that sometimes the audience thinks that it must have been worked on already! I think the fans are really excited, and that excitement is really going to ramp up the closer we get to it actually coming out, especially when we are able to show people what we are going to do. I can’t wait to do it.

Honestly, I can’t wait to see it either! It is going to be so amazing. The Sandman - J.H. Williams III


We have to know, though, what is your preferred format for The Sword Apocryphon? Are you going to get the cassette version as well? Yeah, I have the cassette version, that was part of the deal I made with them — they had to send me a copy of everything they do! For one, I want to have a copy for my own personal archives, and also I want to physically s ee it so I can go, “Ooh, look at this, isn’t that cool”! But I have to say, I’m stoked with all the different vinyl versions that are coming out, that are amazing. I just heard from Napalm Records, the label responsible for some of the overseas stuff are going back to print on some of the vinyl with even more variations.

Something about seeing it in vinyl is so much more powerful to me on a visual level than the CD version. It is just really cool.

It is an amazing record with amazing artwork, it has been a pleasure to talk to you, J.H.! Part One of this interview can be found here: EARTH PRIME TIME: INTERVIEW WITH J.H. WILLIAMS III (PART ONE).



[Quoted on ROBOT 6


The Sword 'Apocryphon' Cover - J.H. Williams III

When we can open our eyes and see the connections between people, places, and things as more than just coincidence, but rather as a web stretching across the universe and back home to Earth, great discoveries happen on a spiritual level. Metal band The Sword thinks about these ethereal associations and tapped modern comic book maestro J.H. Williams III (Batwoman, Promethea, Chase) to create the artwork for Apocryphon. Following a sold out show at The Middle East Downstairs last week, we talked to the artist about his craft and the collaboration that brought the band back to Earth after spending some time in outer space.

  DIGBOSTON: Thanks for taking the time with us, J.H.! Can you let us know what kind of direction you were given by the band for the artwork? We’ve been listening to Apocryphon by The Sword non-stop since their show last week.

J.H. WILLIAMS III: It was kind of an organic process. Ultimately it was born of having conversations with the singer John [D. Cronise]. For something like this to be really successful from my point of view, as someone who is creating visuals for someone else’s artistic endeavors, I feel like I need to get inside their head a little bit. We started talking about what the new music sounds like and they had sent me over some demos. We started talking about what some of the lyrical content was going to be like and what the overall feeling of the album would be. When he told me the meaning of the title, that word means secret writing. This led into a whole esoteric conversation about mysticism, a little bit about the occult, and more esoteric ideas. As we would talk, different things would come into my head, and I would sketch or think about some ideas and send those things over.

The biggest thing we were wanting to convey was a lot of symbolic imagery without it typically being just symbols. We ended up using some rune-like symbols, and overall the rest of the imagery needed to feel symbolic of different things. Some were purposeful, others were random and organic, more metaphoric in a sense.

That definitely fits into what I know of your art in the comics. You can get into some abstract symbols and symbolism. I was thinking about the runes and I meant to ask because everyone goes back to the Led Zeppelin IV — where everybody ‘has their own symbol.’ I feel like what the band was trying to do with the record and the overall look of your awesome artwork was that there are symbols people can relate to, but don’t exactly know why. I also know from their website that John did a lot of research on his own to get inspired for this new record. It is a great fit.

I think so, too; one of the things I was trying to convey visually was that with their previous albums, there is a great sense of story to their stuff. I wanted to keep that going, so that when you look at the artwork there is a great sense of story to it. A lot of it is more metaphoric, symbolic images that represent other things. The sense of story comes out through the use of those images.

The idea of the runes is like creating a sense of story that has mystery to it.

You aren’t going to get necessarily all of the answers concretely, or some of the stuff might make you feel something in particular, or make you think of something subliminally so that it becomes more interpretational.

When you are listening to the record and letting the art wash over you, you are filling in the gaps with your imagination, like in between pages or panels in a comic book, in a way.

Yeah, exactly. The only thing I was really concrete about wanting to convey was that the previous album, Warp Riders, was a far out, space, sci-fi fantasy epic thing. This record, the first thing that came to my mind when John was talking to me was that even though the lyrics are metaphorical, this is a much more personal record for him than Warp Riders was. When you look at the first image, I wanted you to have a sense of the cosmic-ness at the top, but [also the sense that] you are returning to a planetary body. In doing so, we wanted to show that a planetary body at first seems like a dead-looking planet. But there is a piece carved out, where there is still fire inside of it.

So the band is returning to a personal place to rebirth this fuel inside themselves, therefore re-birthing vitality in a way.

The Sword - Apocryphon - J.H. Williams III - Back Cover

 The whole symbol of the planet being dead there, and then you turn the cover over to the back and you see life growing from death. This becomes rich, and has almost a summer kind of feel to it or a spring kind of feel. At the bottom you can see the skulls and the sunflowers rising up from that. To me that was symbolizing the idea of being out in space and returning to someplace deeper and personal.

I see the contrast of reaching out to a big fantasy world of spaceships and sci-fi mysteries out there with the mysteries grounded by bringing it back to the Earth on a personal level best illustrated by your image of a sword cracking though the crust of the Earth on the back of the jewel case.

By returning to Earth and getting more personal, you are invigorating new life, and seeing things from a different point of view than you were before. That’s why we used the diagram aspect of the sword penetrating the planet. We wanted to follow through with another diagram of the human cell. That round shape of the human cell correlates to the round shape of the planet.

The planet itself is a symbol of life in a way, and the basic biology of small cell life builds up us, just as the planets build up the cosmos.

What I think is great about this is that other bands might be trying to go for this type of thing, but this is a whole package. A lot of thought and care went into this. And it is not just that they hired an illustrator to draw something cool for the record cover.

I was super stoked to do it, I was a huge fan of the band prior to getting to know them a little bit. At the same time, I was trepidatious because John was telling me he was a huge fan of my work. The first thing I thought of was “Please don’t tell me you want something that looks like Batwoman on the cover”. (Laughs) John said such a nice thing, that they were coming to you because of what they saw in my comics work. My comics work hits them at such a level that they trusted me to do whatever I wanted as far as visuals I could bring to the table as far as open and far reaching.

I think it’s also very cool that you guys are super big fans of each other! That’s the best.

Ha ha, yeah, they’re a killer band! Coming back to the runes, and the idea of secret writing having to do with metaphysics, there is a metaphysical bent to some of John’s lyrics and the name of the album, Apocryphon, when I did my research on what that word meant, I found two things. One was secret writings, two was about how things were very personal.

Even though they are conveying music to an audience, personal can also mean very personal secrets or privacy.

I was thinking about this thing called the alphabet of desire. This is a ritualistic technique developed by occultist Austin Osman Spare. You think of something you desire to have in your life, a personal mantra about how you want to live or something you need to accomplish in your life. You write down a sentence on what that is, and you take the first letter of each word and create a sigil from that. Then you would meditate on the idea. There are a couple of different interpretations. In one, you would burn the original sentence, or you would burn the sigil for yourself. No one else knows what this means. This becomes highly personal. When I explained this to John, he loved that idea. Since he loved it, I insisted his band to do it, and just tell me the letters and I would design sigils for the band. By just telling me the letters, that retains the power of the secret message. We created those, and I thought it would be interesting to make runes out of the titles of the songs as well.

For that, did you reach for comic book letterer Todd Klein’s assistance?

No, I designed all the runes and the book myself, where Todd comes in, was figuring out some of the technical aspects. We were under the gun to get this done in time and I couldn’t do all the lettering myself. So I went to the best guy there is! He designed all the text lettering for the credits and the song lyrics. Another cool element that was very concrete in the artwork was the use of the winged serpent, an interpretation of Quetzalcoatl. Here the band was returning to a personal place in the year 2012, looking for renewal and change.

Everyone is talking about how the world and society needs to renew and change as well. The Mayan 2012 stuff is a bunch of junk, but it got me thinking about the real meaning of apocalypse isn’t destruction, it is change from what we know.

Musicians constantly need to be reinventing themselves, selling records, but also bands don’t want to be stuck in the same place. Some bands get ethereally abstract about that, but Kyle (Shutt, guitar) was saying “We’re Not Making a Conscious Decision To Do Anything But Be Awesome”. The sound on this record is not a huge departure but it is more grounded as you said, so thank you for sharing this with us!

It was super exciting to do, and it seems like we enjoyed the collaboration enough that I’m hoping that we will be able to do more things in the future. I’ve expressed interest to them that I’d be game to be involved in other releases or however else they would like to join forces.


J.H. was awesome enough to let me keep him on the phone to talk about Batwoman, The New 52, his upcoming Sandman book with Neil Gaiman. Stay tuned for Part Two of our interview next week! EDIT: Here it is!